Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Five Feel-Good Resolutions for the New Year

Being good to yourself is not the same as being selfish. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Your relationship with yourself is the source of all your other relationships, and if it’s not constantly tended to you’ll eventually have nothing to give to the people you care the most about.


With that in mind, let’s talk about New Year’s resolutions. I’ve got nothing against goal-setting and self-improvement, but all too often our resolutions seem like an exercise in self-flagellation or even self-loathing. “No more desserts.” “Stop snacking at work.” “Drop three sizes by summer.” The premise is that we’ve been bad and we have to start being good, and that to be good we have to give up the things we love.


Most such resolutions are soon abandoned, with good reason. Why should any sensible person whip himself incessantly for no greater sin than simply being human?


To be human is to enjoy food, drink, and other pleasures that make us happy and give us reasons to live. Of course, there is such a thing as overindulgence, but the kind of person who makes resolutions is not the kind of person who drinks vodka from morning to night, or eats three dozen cookies a day. The kind of person who makes resolutions feels guilty because she’s not perfect. Perfection may be something to strive for in a spiritual sense, but it shouldn’t be the measure of our self-worth.


So, with no further ado, here are my five feel-good resolutions for 2014: resolutions you can actually keep and which will enhance your relationship with yourself in the new year and beyond.


Resolution Number One is: Drink More. OK, this doesn’t apply to recovering alcoholics. But if you’ve never had a problem controlling your alcohol consumption, your life would improve if you enjoyed an extra glass of wine a couple of times a week. But I really mean enjoy. Savor the wine, sip it slowly, feel it relax your body and renew your spirit. If you still feel a bit guilty, just call it “mindful drinking.”


Resolution Number Two is: Exercise More. Wait; didn’t I just say no self-flagellation? I did, but exercise doesn’t have to be punishment. Nor does exercise have to be merely a means to an end, if by end you mean losing weight. Enjoy exercise for its own sake. Feel how energizing it is to breathe fresh air on an early morning walk, or to stretch your arm and shoulder muscles for five minutes, or to dance deliriously to a Donna Summer song when no one’s home but you. If you lose a few pounds, fine, but don’t measure your progress by that. In fact, don’t think in terms of “progress” at all. Live in the moment, however briefly it may last.


Resolution Number Three is: Maximize the Time You Spend with Fun People. My guess is you know someone who makes you smile just by hearing their name. If you’re lucky, you know several people like that, people who are warm, humorous, upbeat, and life-affirming. Do everything you can to see those people early and often in 2014, or at least stay in touch with them. They’re helping to keep you alive.


Resolution Number Four is the flip side of Number Three: To the extent possible, Avoid People Who Suck the Air out of the Room, and Who Suck the Life out of You. Just as there are people who make me smile when I hear their names, there are people who make me want to drive my car off a cliff rather than spend time with them. Unfortunately, there’s someone like that in every family and every office, so it’s impossible to avoid them altogether. But it’s vital to your emotional health that you keep your interaction with such people to a minimum.


Resolution Number Five is: Try Something New and Different Every Day. We all get into ruts. We tend to watch the same TV shows, read the same magazines, visit the same websites, talk about the same subjects….There’s nothing wrong with doing things you love, but if you’re doing them solely out of habit you should shake things up a little. Instead of going to the same restaurant, try one you’ve never been to. Instead of socializing with the same couples all the time, invite a single friend over for dinner. When you were younger, you were open to different perspectives, different experiences, different people. You can’t turn the clock back, but you can feel a lot younger just by being open to possibility.


I was going to add as a sixth feel-good resolution: Have More Sex. But if you follow the other five resolutions, the sex should take care of itself. If you’re unstressed, energetic, intellectually adventurous, and not constantly down on yourself, you’re probably going to feel sexually alive as well, and other people will recognize that in you.


So ditch the “thou shalt not” resolutions of the past, and let 2014 be the year you start having fun again, and start getting in touch with your truest and best self.